Inside the Roland TR‑808
This interactive, animated graphic tells you everything you need to know about how the influential drum machine works.
1Input / Output switch
When on "input," the 808 can’t work by itself, and requires a separate Roland product for syncing. When on "output," the 808 can control other Roland units.
3Power On / Off switch
Switching to PATTERN CLEAR and then pressing the red TRACK CLEAR button will clear the selected (blinking step button) track. The 1st PART and 2nd PART can each contain a programmed rhythm. The MANUAL PLAY, PLAY, and COMPOSE options allow the user to arrange programmed rhythms in various ways.
5Instrument / Track selector
When the mode selector is on 1st part, or 2nd part, this knob will select which instrument will be programmed. If the mode selector is in play or compose, this knob will select which programmed rhythm will be played or used in a composition.
6Auto fill in selectorOn MANUAL, a fill in can be inserted by the user by pressing the tap button
. On 16, 12, 8, 4, and 2, a fill in will be inserted every corresponding number of measures.
The tempo controls the speed of the beat and has a large dial for broad changes and a smaller dial for more incremental adjustments.
Voice selectors are used for modifying how an instrument sounds. An ACCENT will add emphasis to any voice programmed on the same step.
9Basic variation switch
The basic variation switch allows the user to program an "A" version sound and a "B" version sound for each step button. If the selector is between the "A" and "B" (the "AB" position), then the "A" sounds for all step buttons will play first, followed by the "B" sounds for all step buttons.
10Start / stop button
The pre-scale determines how many steps there will be for each beat. The time signatures would be 1 = 6/8, 2 = 3/4, 3 = 4/4, and 4 = 2/4.
The step buttons are used in programming rhythm patterns as well as selecting which rhythm is played.
The master volume sets the output volume of the device.
14I / F variation switch
The I / F variation switch functions similar to the basic variation switch, but only for the Intro / Fill ins.
The tap button can be used to manually program in real time; if playing in 1st part or 2nd part on the mode selector, tapping the button will add the selected sound to the step buttons accordingly. It can also be used to insert intros and fill ins when in manual play mode on the mode selector.
The inner workings of the TR-808
1"Step button" circuit board
2Main circuit board
This piece shields the circuit boards from sound noise than can be caused by interference from the power supply.
The transformer reduces the voltage of incoming power to make it compatible with the 808.
3 AA batteries work as a "backup" if power is unplugged or fails. If the memory on the circuit board loses power, then programmed rhythms can be lost.
7Microchip & memory banks
Creating a simple rhythm
1Select save slot
Selecting "1st part" from the mode selector causes the "1" step button LED to flash, which is where the programmed rhythm will be saved.
2Select an instrument
"BD" or "Bass Drum" is selected from the instrument selector.
3Start the programming process
Pressing the Start / Stop button starts the program, and the LED lights flash on and off to show which step button is playing.
4Program the part
As step buttons are pressed, the bass drum sound is added to that step, indicated by scrolling LEDs.
5Add various parts
The same process can be used for any instrument to add them to the rhythm.